Albuquerque / Santa Fe, NM

Trip Start Mar 26, 2006
Trip End Oct 20, 2006

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Flag of United States  , New Mexico
Monday, April 10, 2006

Old town Albuquerque is quaint in a southwesty, touristy kind of way with its mix of trinket and upscale Indian jewelry shops. The warm tones of live flamenco guitar lend a welcome authentic tone to a fantastic lunch of New Mexican fare at the Church Street Cafe - a place I'd recommend to anyone visiting here - and we chat for a bit with our flirty but genuinely friendly waiter.

We quickly discover that Albuquerque is filled with friendly, welcoming people.

After a quick scan through the jewelry shops, we're off on a quick drive through the trendy span of Route 66 (Central Ave.) in downtown, then make our way to the University/Nob Hill area. We've both been out of school now for more than a decade (!?!) but strangely this bohemian, slightly rougher-around-the-edges part of town holds our interest better. The vibrant, creative energy is everywhere as we take a short stroll through the University of New Mexico campus.

Fortunately, the local alternative rag, "the Alibi," has just published their "Best of Burque" ratings, so we duck into Frontier Restaurant for the "best cinnamon roll" in town. Todd is elated, since cinnamon rolls are his second favorite culinary treat after good ol' chocolate chip cookies (no nuts!). We also taste a sample of their green chili salsa, which starts by burning my mouth with spicy hot excitement and keeps burning all the way down to my stomach. Todd tastes the chili and his eyes bug out.

"Solas", considered to be the best Irish band ever to come out of the U.S., is playing at the Lobos Theater and I'm too tempted to pass this up, so we splurge on tickets. The music is fantastically good - I can barely keep from stomping my feet and clapping through every tune. It's an older, quieter crowd - one lone concertgoer dances a quirky jig off to the side down in front - but they enthusiastically burst into raucous whistling and applause at the end of every song. The band is relaxed and funny and struggling to play impossibly difficult flute riffs in the high-altitude thin air and I'm completely enthralled through it all. Definitely would like to learn guitar when I get back home, and maybe Celtic music is really where it's at for me?

After a day of fine art, good food, handcrafted jewelry, and incredible music, I'm suddenly so excited to choose the next career based on passion and sheer love for whatever it is I'm going to do. Goodbye corporate America!!!

On our way out of town, we stop by Petroglyph National Monument, but it doesn't even come close to what we saw at Three Rivers so we head off to Santa Fe.

In Santa Fe, we rendezvous with my good friend Bill, who knows me from my old acting days in Minneapolis and has a talent for poking holes in my over-seriousness. Like myself, Bill's a lover of fine cuisine and we've somehow managed to find and chow down massive quantities of good food (and wine!) almost non-stop the past two times we've gotten together.

Bill manages to quash our stingy plans to hole up in the Santa Fe Motel 6 and the three of us instead settle into a room at the semi-posh Hotel Santa Fe just blocks from the historic plaza. Cushy towels, complimentary day passes to a local gym, and a hotel chauffeur ready to go anywhere in town with only a moment's notice. The icy air mattress and down sleeping bags are going to be a shock tomorrow.

We spend just a few minutes walking the plaza, a veritable Disneyland New Mexico, before we find our way to Canyon Road, a never ending stretch of incredible contemporary art galleries and studios. En route back to our hotel, the driver takes us on a roundabout tour of Santa Fe's residential areas, and we're at the hotel just long enough to catch a nap before dinner.

Dinner at "the Compound," a restaurant run by James Beard award-winning chef Mark Kiffin, is a super-indulgent treat. Creamy foie gras, crab louie, rack of southwestern lamb with smokey polenta, lemony halibut, melt-in-your-mouth veal cheeks, followed by molten chocolate cake, tangy lemon ice cream, and berry tart. We return to the hotel and crash from food-inspired comas.

The next day, we drive north of Santa Fe to join two of Bill's friends, Sean and Tanya, for lunch (more food!) at Rancho de Chimaya. The highlight of the meal is the fluorescent pink prickly pear cactus lemonade topped with sparkly, shimmering toothpick umbrellas (they must have known we were coming), along with yet more New Mexican fare bathed in spicy green chili. Like the tastes I acquired for tea in the UK and coffee in Costa Rica, something tells me I'll be seeking out green chili on a regular basis.

In the afternoon, it's time for some grounding and we pay a visit to the Kagyu Shenpen Kunchab Bodhi Stupa, a Buddhist temple on the outskirts of town that suddenly pops into view above the surrounding homes and strip malls. As we're circumambulating, we're greeted by Lama Karma Dorje, who was sent to Santa Fe by his teacher, Kalu Rinpoche, and we're invited inside to join him for the Chenresig practice. It's my first time reading this chant, and I'm nearly brought to tears several times as we call on the Buddha (teacher), Dharma (teachings), and Sangha (Buddhist community) to give us the ability to reach enlightenment so that we can benefit all sentient beings. I'm struck by Lama Dorje's quiet, friendly, and cheerful presence, and even more captivated when he lovingly calls to the resident cat, "Mouse," and begins chanting "Om Mani Padme Hung" to benefit the cat. The cat wriggles for attention on our puja table before we begin chanting and is gently and cheerfully prevented from stepping on the chant books by the Lama's assistant, since this would create negative karma for the cat. There is quiet and peacefulness in this place.

We'll spend one last day today in Santa Fe doing laundry and wrapping things up here, then head off to Bandelier National Monument tomorrow.
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joanknab on

veal cheeks?
Okay, I won't ask. Sounds like you guys are having way too much fun! (I started writing this already and somehow lost it, so you might get two of these. - I'm still trying to get the hang of this 'blogging' thing.)You are certainly immersing yourselves in all the wonderful details of your travels and it is SO fun to read this journal. You ARE an amazing writer (or writers) and it sure makes me want to join you MUCH sooner! Soph says hi and she still misses both of you SO much. We're trying our best to keep her healthy and happy and she's being a real sport, but it's just not the same. But, we love her to death and it's going to be REALLY hard to see her go back home someday! Can't wait to hear about the next adventure.
Love, Mom XXXOOO

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